Poetry Fiction Issue

A Mile Down the Road From Home

Hear the author read this poem

I’ve caught myself
whistling a bumpy version
of “Take the A Train,” and only
because this catbird
in a beach-plum thicket has
taken me up on it,
or close enough, the bird
keeping a breath or two behind,
as if trying to hear where
I’m taking him, then diving
back into his own song line,
improvising along his strung-out
warbles and gutturals, and now
a few kingfisher rattles
and perhaps a black-billed cuckoo
or something else he’s brought
up the hemisphere for this
season of courtship, cackles
and chucks, even a tree frog’s piping.
I can feel Darwin frowning over me
like a thunderhead. A little
shaky about messing around
in natural selection, I look
both ways, taking care the bird
and I are alone before I donate
a ragged thread from “Peter Grimes”
to this slate-colored, black-capped
male who has only
a rufous undertail for flash.

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